Growth Mindset

Ok so in order to create, you first need to quiet your inner critic. We all have one basically telling us that we don't know what we're doing, our work isn't worth a damn and we should crawl under the covers for eternity. If you can't get out from under this kind of artistic resistance, you won't ever create. 

Creativity isn't highly correlated to genetics. And the faster that we can train ourselves to look at creativity like a strength rather than a trait, the sooner we can get on with the business of creating. 

Growth Mindset

Adopting a growth mindset will be extremely helpful in this endeavor. We need to get out of the fixed thoughts such as I suck at this, I'm not artistic, I don't have a creative bone in my body, she's so talented at art etc. etc. The way to become more creative is just like anything else, it takes practice. Mastering the piano takes practice, mastering composition, lighting and tech tools takes practice, too. You didn't come out of the womb knowing what ISO, aperture, depth of field meant, nobody did. 

So with every exercise, tell yourself that you are growing creative strengths in your brain. If a particular exercise doesn't turn out the way you wish it had, reflect on what alternative strategies you could use to make it better. Ask yourself what could you learn from your mistake? What growth is available to you?

Fixed Mindset: Intelligence is static; tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily; see effort as fruitless or worse; ignores useful negative feedback; feels threatened by the success of others. May plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. Feeds the ego: it’s about “I/me”. People with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are established and can’t change much regardless of how hard they try.

Growth Mindset: Malleable, curious, nurture, learning. Intelligence can be developed; tendency to embrace challenges; persists in the face of setbacks; sees effort as the path to mastery. Learn from criticism; find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. Those with growth mindset reach higher levels of achievement and have a greater sense of free will. People with a growth mindset know that they can learn and grow if they invest enough effort.

Broaden and Build

Broaden and Build: Positive emotions often initiate a cycle of more positive emotions. Specifically, positive emotions can facilitate the development of skills, networks, resources, and capacities, which in turn promote wellbeing and fulfillment. This theory was formulated by Barbara Frederickson.

Negative emotions narrow and focus us into specific actions. Positive emotions broaden and build. We can generate more ideas, be more in creative flow. So if you go into berating yourself for not producing work that you like better, know that it's not only cruel, but also counter-productive. Being in a positive state helps you generate more ideas, produce more. Being in a negative state keeps you really narrow. Creativity needs expansive space in which to flourish - so give it the positive nutrients it needs to grow. 


Fear . . . . . . . . . . . .escape

Anger . . . . . . . . . . .attack

Disgust . . . . . . . . . .expel

Guilt . . . . . . . . . . . .make amends

Shame . . . . . . . . . disappear

Sadness . . . . . . . . withdraw

Contentment . . . . . inaction


Joy . . . . . . . . . . . . .free/play

Affection . . . . . . . . .approach

Interest . . . . . . . . . .explore

Contentment . . . . . savor

Love . . . . . . . . . . . all of the above

As one of my favorite photographers says, the key to a well lived life is to "Get comfortable being uncomfortable" - Chase Jarvis

Growth isn't usually a walk in the park. It can be painful, frustrating, maddening until you get to the other side. This is a photo of me on a ropes course in Lake Tahoe. I was leading this other woman across the high wire - nothing to hold onto - we were just shimmying across this very bouncy bridge. She was terrified. I was not only guiding her but also trying to calm her down. I had unsuccessfully tried to do a ropes course when I was 16 years old. I remember missing the trapeze on the high log jump. I remember flying off of this two-man exercise within minutes of the grueling climb up. I remember walking away feeling like I had barely survived the day. 20 years later, I was ready to do better. I was ready to try different strategies, to not let my mind get the best of me and to lead the way. It took 20 years, but this was a redemptive ropes course for me. This was me willing to be comfortable with my discomfort. And it paid off. I can say that my greatest growth had never come from the things that came easy to me. I don't grow (unless we're just talking about my rear end's growth) by watching Net Flix and eating ice creamo on the couch. Life is a full contact sport if you're playing full out. Bumps and bruises come with the territory. 


Curiosity is the antidote to fixed mindset and judgments

Definition of Curious: recognizing, embracing, and seeking out knowledge and new experiences.

Curiosity is highly correlated with life satisfaction.

If you're curious you'll have higher task persistence, you won't give up. Being curious is associated with higher levels of well-being. 

If you're having trouble shifting into curiosity after a negative event, ask yourself: How can I learn, how can I grow? How can I get more curious about this situation rather than judgmental? Curiosity results in exploration. If you explore your environment more, you discover more. From that discovery, you get more positive emotions. Curiosity results in upward spirals resulting in exploration, discovery, pleasure, repetition, mastery, new skills, confidence, self-esteem, sense of security, more exploration. That's quite a positive feedback loop!

How fascinating ...

Get into the fascination habit. When something good or bad happens to you, before you curse, go into judgment or sink into depair, exclaim: "how fascinating!". Go to fascination first. See how quickly your mood shifts from narrowed and negative to being able to roll up your sleeves and come up with creative solutions. 

People who have the strength of creativity are curious. When the question is how can I ldo this differently. How can I look at this differently? What's in this box? What's behind this door? They want to know how something works. They are motivated by discovery and as you can see engaging in curiosity sets into motion a whole positive feedback loop that begets more curiosity. 

Positography Practice

1) Can you see the beauty in the ordinary (aka The Visual Feast)?
Take a non-literal photo of something completely ordinary in your house.  Something you would never give a second glance to as artistic inspiration.  Get up close.  Make it abstract.  Take a picture of its reflection or its shadow.  Or take something completely literal and translate it in a way that shows it in its most gorgeous glory.  Simple lines.  A punch of color.  Lovely symmetry.  Peeling paint. Rusted parts. Get curious, then find the beauty in the ordinary.

2) Take risks


Growth takes risks. Embarking on this life feast is taking a risk. It's taking photos of trash receptacles rather than mountain vistas. It's looking closer, leaning in and not going for the easy landscape.

Here are a few places where I've found beauty in the uneexpected.  My favorites: Top left, the moving walkway at the Detroit Airport.  Bottom left: the light shining down in a bathroom stall at a restaurant in Denver.  Ummm yes, I was actually taking the picture while on the toilet :-).